At most meetings of The FENG here in Westport I take a few minutes during the magic show to explain the best approach to contacting other members of our now vast organization. (The magic show is when Norm Weinstock, Doug Fine and I, from memory, come up with the names of those we have met who our new members should meet. Hey, we only have 27,000+ members, so it really isn’t all that difficult!)
The best approach to contacting just about anyone, including other members, is to send a letter of introduction first with a copy of your resume. I know this flies in the face of things you may have learned, but in a few quick paragraphs, let me see if I can explain.
The first of Matt’s laws of which you should be aware is that speech is the slowest form of communication. To call someone and walk them through your background is a difficult proposition at best. The same information can be communicated by reading your resume in about 1/10 the elapsed time. (I haven’t actually done any time studies on this point, but you can probably take my word for it. As has often been said, it can take some folks ten minutes just to clear their throat.)
Next, let me introduce you to “The Man From Mars” syndrome. Very briefly, if you call me without writing first, keep in mind that I don’t know who you are or what you want, and I sure don’t know how to help you. If you write first, all this is solved. Now I know why you are calling and I can tell my secretary not to put you through. (Just kidding. Once any member is aware that it is another member from our circle of friends, they will hang up on their boss or their spouse to talk to you.)
Now that you have made it possible for me to “read more about you” AND I know why you are calling, there may actually be time during my day to CALL YOU. It would be nice if your e-mail to me had an outgoing signature with a phone number at which you can be reached, and that you signed your full name and nick name. I can’t begin to tell you how many e-mails I still get without a signature and without a phone number too. (Fortunately, I have what I call Matt’s secret decoder ring, and I can usually figure out who you are, unless you write from an e-mail address I don’t have, which does happen at least once a week.)
If your children are grown and out of the house, try asking one of your neighbors kids to come over and show you how to set up your outgoing signature. Any small child over the age of 8 can probably help. (It really is that easy. You won’t even have to call tech support. I promise!)
The final step is to make sure that I can leave a message. Please, no messages with small children or dogs barking in the background. I would also appreciate it if you would mention your name. I usually know the number I dialed, but what if I made a mistake in writing it down from your message. (How do I know I am leaving a message with the right person?) Listen, you may have to spring for an answering machine or voice mail. I want you to know I tried to call you back. I would hate for you to think I was being rude or didn’t care enough to return your call. So, help me out and make sure you have an answering machine and that it sounds professional.
I believe this is a famous quote: “No one prepares to fail. But, you do need to prepare to succeed.”